It’s 110 degrees and CTI’s team is being introduced to a rural village near Kaolack by our Senegal Program Manager, Aliou Ndiaye. Speaking in Wolof, the local language, Aliou addresses about two dozen villagers who’ve gathered to greet us under the shade of a large tree,
“For the past 10 years you have seen the same rate of yield in your pearl millet crop. You have good seed and good farming practices, but we cannot extend the land. We are here today look at how postharvest technologies can help feed your families. We can’t find the solution without you. We can’t improve our technology or help other farmers use it without you. So we have to make you work. We need you to tell us honestly how you feel about the technology, what you like and dislike, and how you think it can impact your village.”
A team of CTI staff and volunteers is in Senegal to work with our local partners on expanding the distribution and impact of our recently-launched Grain Tools. Over the past few weeks, CTI has delivered sets of tools (including a pearl millet stripper, thresher, winnower and grinder) to 15 villages in Senegal as part of a program funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The goal of the project is to place the suites in different types of villages throughout Senegal and gather data on their use so we can focus our distribution efforts on reaching the communities that stand to benefit most from the tools.
Villagers Provide Feedback
The village we were visiting had recently received CTI’s tools and we wanted to check in with the community to provide additional training and get their initial reaction. First, we spoke to the village women’s organization. While in Senegal, I learned that formal women’s organizations are very common in villages, and some communities even have more than one. They often run businesses and use their earnings to pay for school fees or to purchase things for the group.
The president of the women’s organization, Ndeye Gueye, spoke on behalf of the group, “We are very happy about this technology. It is very useful. In the past we were using the mortar and pestle and now that we have this, we can reduce drudgery for women and save grain. This technology may be a small thing, but for us it is a big gift.”
Other community members—both men and women— gathered to offer advice for increasing the output of the technology and improving the grinder so it can process wet millet. The villagers also expressed how much they enjoyed using the grinder to make peanut butter and they hoped to earn money grinding for others. They explained that previously, the village had been using an expensive motorized grinder provided by another organization, but when the machine broke just two years after they received it, the women had to return to grinding their peanuts by hand. We hear this type of story far too often at CTI—money being spent providing communities with expensive, complicated machinery that rarely lasts more than a few years.
After spending more time with the community, as we prepared to leave, Aliou addressed the group a final time, and was clear and direct that our collaboration is a partnership that will require work and commitment on both sides. Aliou explained,
“We came here to work together to find solutions for the whole nation. This is our proposal to you, but it is just a proposal. If you do not want to do this, we can go to another village. But if you want to use the technology and tell us how you honestly feel about it, then let’s get to work.”
At CTI, we never stop pushing ourselves to do better, to improve our process and our technologies, and we depend on communities to give their honest opinions rather than telling us what they think we want to hear. In Senegal, this has not been a problem. The women and men are smart, outspoken, and engaged.